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Dueling proposals for downtown entertainment facilities

Dueling proposals for downtown entertainment facilities

In a matter of weeks Hamilton Council has gone from no proposals to solve the problem of aging entertainment facilities to three, if you count the recently-rejected Limeridge arena proposal.

Two unsolicited proposals to revamp Hamilton’s entertainment facilities landed at City Hall on January 23, Both came from familiar entrepreneurial groups—Vrancor Group and a consortium headed by Carmen’s. Both proposals have been rumored to be in the works for the past few months, and served as a backdrop that shed the recent proposal by Cadillac Fairview and Michael Andlauer to build an arena at Limeridge Mall in a uncertain light as Hamilton City council waited to see the what else was available..

The Vrancor proposal promises to redevelop the First Ontario Centre “into a state of the art and technologically modern facility,” doubling the event capacity of the Hamilton Convention Centre and sprucing up First Ontario Concert Hall. In addition the plan calls for the construction of a four-star hotel downtown to service the expanded Convention Centre. Vrancor proposes to operate both the arena and the concert hall without any operating subsidy by the city. The proposal further states that Vrancor will not ask the city to borrow any money to fund the project nor to tap reserve funds, but does not rule out some form of municipal participation– leaving open the possibility that the city might still contribute in the form of city owned downtown land or possibly transferring currently budgeted funds earmarked for the upkeep of the facilities. The proposal estimated the value of the project at $200 Million.

The Carmen’s-headed group also proposes to renovate, rather than demolish the First Ontario Centre. They indicate they would like to see a new convention centre in the core and have had discussions with federal and provincial representatives to explore senior government support. The group, which includes LIUNA, Fengate, the Joyce Family and the Paletta group, estimates their plan could result in an investment of $500 Million. They also say they have had discussions with the new owners of the former Eatons Centre about possible collaboration on a high rise residential project. The document says their proposal would meet the city’s goal of getting out of the entertainment business, and the attendant subsidies

Hamilton Council will first discuss the proposals February 5th.

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